Danish Cartoons and Christian-Muslim Relations in Denmark

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Jørgen S. Nielsen Professor and Director of the Centre for European Islamic Thought Faculty of Theology, University of Copenhagen, Email:

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Prior to the arrival of Muslim immigrants and refugees into Denmark in the 1970s and after, Denmark’s experience with Islam was partly through university-based research and partly through missionary activities. During the 1980s and 1990s both sectors gradually adapted to the settlement of Muslims in the country. In the 1990s the public political debate became increasingly heated, leading to a steady tightening of immigration and refugee policies. In this debate an Islamic dimension was starkly exacerbated by the events of 11 September 2001 and the arrival of a new centre-right government two months later. This was the environment in which the ‘Muhammad cartoons’ were published in September 2005, and in which the domestic and international crisis played out over the subsequent 6-8 months. But the events also encouraged the emergence of new Islamic organizations and new responses, both negative and positive, on the part of the churches. While the sharp public debate continues, new apparently sustainable structures of Christian-Muslim relations have appeared.

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